Personhood

"Did you hear that India has recognized dolphins as nonhuman persons with rights to life and liberty?"

"Hm, yes."

"I thought you'd approve."

"Oh, I do; any measure that reduces the suffering of sentient creatures is a very noble thing. I'm just uncertain about the correct way to generalize the concept of personhood in the wake of the knowledge that humanity isn't ontologically privileged. Some people seem to favor a broad interpretation, such that chimps and dolphins are persons. But sometimes I wonder if a narrow construal would be better, where not all humans are persons."

"You mean, excluding infants and brain-damage cases?"

"No, I mean excluding us. After you filter through all the memetic noise and tribal posturing, real-life humans don't exhibit nearly as much moral agency as we like to think. We have not yet dreamed of what our highest ideals of personhood would look like when implemented consistently."

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